At first glance, Hunter Brooks seemed like just another 14-year-old boy. Virtually nothing went on in his life that would attract the local news’ attention. He lived in the suburbs with his family and spent his days going to school like everyone else his age did. He’d never climbed Mount Everest or set foot on Mars or found the city of Atlantis (then again, no one had ever found Atlantis).
But what people didn’t know was that, in another world, Hunter was a hero. He had grappled with terrible beings and saved innocent lives. The crazy thing was, many of those terrible beings existed in our world as toys.
Hunter’s father, Cornelius Brooks, was an inventor who constructed all sorts of crazy inventions. His latest invention had been a machine that could scan its surroundings and create a new dimension based on those surroundings. Hunter’s younger siblings, Isaac and Ellie, had gotten ahold of the machine and brought it into their bedroom. The machine had scanned the various action figures and toy playsets in their room and created a dimension where all the toys were real people with real lives and, in some cases, real powers.
While trying to deactivate the machine, Hunter had been sucked into this dimension. He found himself among various knights, adventurers, firemen, princesses, spies, and dinosaurs. But what reigned supreme were the Mechanicle toys. Mechanicle was a line of action figures and playsets, with an extensive backstory about biomechanical beings that fought for dominance over the world. The machine had brought the Mechanicle backstory to life and merged it with the backstories of Isaac’s and Ellie’s various other toys.
In this new dimension, Hunter found out that he was the prophecied Outsider who was destined to save the world from the “ultimate evil.” Hunter had doubted in himself at first, but he allied with the Mechanicle Elemental Masters and rose against the villains that threatened the world. Hunter had overcame his self-doubt, found six missing keystones, and defeated the Mechanicle villainess Prohahka.
At first, Hunter didn’t tell his parents about what had gone on. He didn’t think they’d believe him, and even if they did, there was no telling what they’d make of his stories. But Isaac and Ellie had suspected that Hunter had gone into a dimension where their toys were alive, and they were curious. They had needled Hunter into revealing his entire tale, which they enjoyed hearing. Like Hunter expected, his parents were a little weirded out by his stories. But Hunter would wink at them to make them think he was just making things up for Isaac and Ellie’s entertainment.
But, of course, Isaac and Ellie had known that the stories were true. They were curious to see for themselves what the dimension was like, despite Hunter warning them that it was dangerous. So they had snuck into their dad’s workshop and entered the portal. In the dimension, they had ended up getting captured by the shapeshifter Tenebris. Hunter had been forced to go back in to rescue them, as well as put an end to Tenebris’ evil plots and schemes.
Tenebris and Prohahka had both been trying to awaken Shadow, a primordial being who embodied the element of shadow and whose counterpart was Light. Shadow had wanted to escape the realm of the Great Creators, take over the overworld, and engulf it in shadow. However, this would throw the universe out of balance and cause it to unravel. Hunter, along with the Elemental Masters, had fought Tenebris and his lackeys in an effort to stop them. In the end, Tenebris had used the Spear of Life to awaken Shadow, but Hunter had come up with a genius idea. He had awakened Light, who also wanted to rule the world and spread his element everywhere, so that he could fight against Shadow. The intent was that Light and Shadow would fight each other until the Great Creators put them to sleep once more, allowing them to continue to embody their respective elements with no risk of them disrupting the balance.
Hunter had returned to the real world-our world-in triumph. But on returning, he had told Isaac and Ellie not to tell their parents about their adventures in the dimension-or even that the dimension existed at all. He had gone through a lot of trouble to rescue Isaac and Ellie, and he didn’t want either of his parents to go exploring the dimension and get into any trouble of their own. No, Hunter and his siblings were going to keep their experiences to themselves.
But, as they all say, secrets have a way of getting out. The machine Cornelius Brooks had invented was merely a prototype. Cornelius had been collaborating with a fellow scientist and inventor named Gregory Wilson who was also interested in creating new dimensions. Cornelius had been working on this particular model as a way of testing how a machine could create a new dimension, and after months of work, it was getting to a point where Cornelius was ready to show it to Gregory.
But before he could do that, Cornelius needed to do a test run to see if it could work. So one Sunday night, after the kids had gone down for the night, he went down into his workshop where the machine was. He turned on the machine and began tinkering with the computer interface. He pressed several buttons, expecting to activate the machine’s scanning ability. But instead, the machine unfolded its portal rim and activated the swirling blue portal.
“What on earth is this?” Cornelius asked. The scanning process wasn’t supposed to be like this. This should only happen if the machine had already created a dimension from its surroundings. He had never used the machine before now, so he didn’t see how it could’ve created a new dimension already.
That is, unless someone else had used it.
Troubled, Cornelius wondered if his kids had gotten their hands on his machine. He had had Hunter help him assemble it, but as far as he knew, Hunter had never tried to use it on his own. Cornelius couldn’t completely rule out the possibility, since Hunter was home much more than he was, but what motives would Hunter have for creating a new dimension? Yes, Hunter had had doubts about finding his place in the world after being released from jail (long story), but Cornelius found it hard to imagine Hunter creating a new dimension for himself.
Still, Cornelius had heard Hunter talking with Isaac and Ellie about adventures they’d had in a dimension where all their toys came alive. Hunter had assured him that he was just telling these stories to entertain his siblings, but strangely, they had stopped talking about it last week after Cornelius and his wife had left them home alone while they went to a Broadway musical. Cornelius also observed that they stopped talking when he or his wife came into a room, or that they covered for each other much more than they had before. There was something suspicious about it.
Cornelius decided that, in the morning, he would ask his kids if they had been messing with his machine. He thought about punishing them, since they technically weren’t supposed to get into his stuff when he wasn’t there to supervise them. But he decided that, since his machine apparently worked like it was supposed to, he’d just grill them for information and be done with it.
Elsewhere, Hunter was asleep beneath his covers and sheets. He was dreaming of his time in the dimension created by his father’s machine. He dreamed of the Elemental Masters Pyras, Hydras, Terras, Aeras, Glacias, and Electras, and the villagers in the city of Voyo. He dreamed of other people and locations, too-everything he had seen. He’d had dreams like this ever since he’d first got back from the dimension. Sometimes they uplifted him with pleasant memories, and other times they haunted him with scary ones.
However, this time, Hunter was having a dream that was unlike any he’d had before. This was not a reenactment of anything he’d experienced-rather, it was something new. Hunter was standing in the center square of the city of Voyo, facing the portal atop the pedestal. The keystones built into the base of the portal glowed with energy, and a blue vortex swirled into existence in the center of the portal.
“Hunter…” said a deep, wise voice. Hunter looked around, but he saw no one else in the city square. The voice spoke again, reverberating from the portal. It said, “Hunter Brooks…”
“Who’s there?” Hunter asked, looking straight at the portal.
“I am the chief Great Creator,” said the voice.
“You-you are?” said Hunter.
“I am indeed,” said the voice. “I have been watching you ever since you entered our world, and my brothers and I were pleased with the things you’ve done.”
“I know, I did some pretty great things,” said Hunter.
“Yes, you did, but that’s not why I am speaking to you,” said the chief Great Creator. “I am reaching out to you because you have not fulfilled your destiny yet.”
“What do you mean, I haven’t?” Hunter asked. “I killed Prohahka, I killed Tenebris, I woke up Light-well, really, Glacias did it-so that he could keep Shadow busy while you put them to sleep.”
“Well, it seems that things didn’t play out the way you wanted,” said the chief Great Creator. His voice faded away as the blue vortex in the portal darkened into pitch black. Two red eyes appeared within the portal as a new, deeper and scarier, voice made itself heard. It spoke and said, “My time has come…” The temperature in the air dropped by fifteen degrees, and a cold wind blew from the portal. Something was coming out of the portal, and it wasn’t friendly.
All of a sudden, Hunter woke up in a cold sweat. He blinked his eyes and looked around. His rapid heartbeat slowed down to its normal rate as he realized that he was safe in his bedroom. But he could still hear that terrible voice, and could feel the presence of whatever was coming from that portal. As Hunter brushed sweat off of his forehead, he thought of what the chief Great Creator had said. Apparently Hunter’s plan hadn’t worked out the way he’d wanted. He had hoped that Light and Shadow would keep each other long enough for the Great Creators to figure out how to put them back to sleep. It had seemed like the only way to prevent Light or Shadow from escaping the realm of the Great Creators and taking over the overworld. But that voice, that face in the portal…
Hunter knew that it could only mean one thing. He would have to go back into that dimension.
Hunter threw off his covers and rolled out of his bed. He looked over at his clock, which read 11:45. His dad wasn’t still up, was he? Hunter knew that his dad often stayed up late on weekends to work on projects in his lab, but it was Sunday night. Cornelius Brooks usually went to bed before 10:30 on work nights. Maybe, if Hunter went quietly, he could go down into the basement and power up his dad’s machine. The last time he and his siblings had gone into the dimension was a week ago, when their parents were off watching a Broadway musical. They had returned to the real world well before their parents got home, giving them plenty of time to go to bed with nobody being the wiser. (Time moved differently in the dimension created by the machine.)
Hunter turned on the light and looked in the mirror. He was currently wearing a T-shirt and a pair of shorts so thick, they were like jeans with their legs cut off-his typical daily attire that he also wore to bed. Hunter slipped on a pair of socks and shoes and turned off the light. He carefully opened his bedroom door, not wanting to make it creak loudly and wake anyone up. He took a step out into the hall and looked left and right. Everyone’s doors were closed, and the lights were all off.
But before Hunter could head for the stairs, he heard the thumping sounds of someone coming up. He froze in his tracks as he saw his father come up the stairs. “Hunter,” said Cornelius. “What are you doing?”
“I-um...nothing,” said Hunter
Cornelius looked his son up and down. “Why are you all sweaty?” he asked.
“I don’t know,” Hunter answered. “Why are you up so late?” he blurted out.
“I was looking at my machine that can create new dimensions,” said Cornelius. “Funny thing, I was planning to ask you and your siblings about it tomorrow morning.”
“Ask us? Ask us about what?”
“Well, I was testing it out, and it seems like it’s already created a new dimension,” said Cornelius. “I know I’ve never used it, but I have heard you talking with Isaac and Ellie about adventures you had in the dimension where all their toys were alive.”
Hunter stood dumbstruck. He had hoped his parents would never find out about what had happened, but he should’ve known they’d find a flaw in his system. He tried to think of a lie, but he couldn’t. “I...it wasn’t me who did it,” Hunter forced out.
“What do you mean?”
“It-it happened a few weeks ago,” Hunter explained. “Ellie got into your workshop and brought your machine up to her room. I saw it in there and tried to put it away, but I activated it by accident. And then I got sucked into the portal, and the rest is history.”
“Aren’t you the Outsider?” Cornelius asked. “I’ve heard you talking with Isaac and Ellie.”
“Yes, I was,” said Hunter. “I...I know you’re not gonna like hearing this, but I had to fight some bad guys in that dimension.”
“Yes, I’ve overheard your adventures with Elemental Masters, and cities and islands and monsters,” said Cornelius. “And how you apparently saved the day.”
“I don’t know about that,” said Hunter. “I just woke up from a dream, where the chief Great Creator spoke to me and showed me a vision of that dimension. I saw...I’m pretty sure I saw Shadow.”
“Who’s Shadow again?”
“He’s a primordial being who wants to take over the world and cover it in shadow,” said Hunter. “Those bad guys I fought-they were trying to awaken him so he could do that. I thought I had stopped them, but apparently I was wrong.”
“So, you’re saying that you’re going to go into that dimension again?” Cornelius asked. “To stop this Shadow character?”
“If I have to, yes,” said Hunter. “It’s my responsibility, as the Outsider. Aren’t you always telling me that I have to do my best to fulfill my responsibilities in life?”
Cornelius sucked in one cheek. “Well, yes, I am,” he said. “But-”
“No buts, please,” said Hunter. “I have friends in that dimension. If Shadow knows that they tried to stop him from being awakened, he’ll probably kill them.”
Cornelius looked at his son with a newfound appreciation. “You’re a noble young man, Hunter,” he said.
“I know,” said Hunter. “Look, if you don’t want me to do it, then just say it.”
“If you have friends, then I do want you to help them,” said Cornelius. “As long as you don’t mind me going with you.”
“What...why?” Hunter asked.
“Because I might be able to help you,” said Cornelius. “And also, I am curious to see what my machine has created.”
Hunter sighed. If there was one thing he knew about his dad, it was that once he had his mind set to something, there was no changing it. Hunter could tell that if he refused to bring his dad into the dimension, then he wouldn’t let him go in there. But Hunter had a duty to fulfill, whether he had his dad with him or not. “Fine, you can come,” Hunter said. “But remember, this isn’t gonna be like that trip to the Everglades we went on last summer. There’s gonna be danger. Real danger. Life-threatening danger.”
“Well, if you’re the heroic Outsider, then we won’t have to worry about that, will we?” Cornelius asked.
“Let’s hope not,” said Hunter.
Five minutes later, they were down in the basement. Cornelius pressed the buttons on his machine that he’d pressed before, and the portal rim unfolded. A blue vortex swirled into existence in the center of it all-the portal that would lead to the alternate dimension. “So I take it you just touch the portal?” Cornelius asked.
“Well, you can’t really touch it if it isn’t solid,” said Hunter. “But yes, you stick your hand into it.” He demonstrated by extending his hand into the portal. He felt the familiar tingling sensation as his body dissolved into little brown bits that spiraled into the portal. Hesitating, Cornelius did the same. Father and son lost consciousness as they were transported to a whole new dimension.
End of Chapter 1...